Sunday night, Steph says to me, “Hey Erik, I have been really swamped and I have nothing to post for tomorrow and it is Monday—a busy day for viewership–can you help me out?”
Sure. I had this “Fitism” thing I had been working on. Fitism is a form of discrimination that I had first heard of years ago in one of my classes (I teach sociology), and at the time I thought it was a joke. But the more we discussed it in class, the more real it seemed. Many of my students shared similar experiences in regards to the article that we read, and as the days went on, I noticed fitism happening to me. I began to think, how have I never noticed this before? I guess I have been socialized to not complain about stuff in life, and being a white man in America gives me so many privileges that I would never have considered this a form of discrimination.
Then I told Steph about the article and her flood gates opened. She really has been discriminated against. First I should note, A) she cares about fitness way more than me and B) she completely made a huge life change-around. For those who do not know her story, Steph used to be really overweight. In addition, many of the people she hung out with were also overweight. In sociology, we use a word called homophily, which basically means that people tend to hang around with people who are similar to them. Some of you may remember a study that drew considerable attention a few years ago about obesity being contagious. In the research world, this study drew criticism over its validity. And many critics sited homophily as the true reason as to why there was a strong correlation of obese people being friends with other obese people. Insofar as homophily being true, when Steph tried to lose weight, her friends changed. They rejected her new direction in life. Her family criticized her, her coworkers shunned her, and she lost many of the people she thought were her friends.
I have always been an athlete and coach. Moreover, I tend to hang out with more “fit” people so the issue was not as real for me. But after writing about the constructs of attractiveness in my “Be Hot in 2013” feature, which is something I really did write with intention of a little controversy and humor, I thought it might be interesting to combine sociology with the world of fitness. And naturally, I thought of fitism.
So I wrote up a quick post for the site and figured I would work on it in the future (my contribution level, after all, is only one post a month). Then I got Steph’s plea for a post Sunday night. I shared with her what I had done so far. She loved it, said it was perfect, helped me add her part, found a few pics that were within Creative Commons licensed content, and we were ready to post. It all came about so easily and quickly.
Steph posted the fitism article first thing Monday morning. I had hoped it would get a hundred or so views. I figured it had a pretty catchy title so maybe it would grab some attention. Now you have to realize, Strongfigure.com is a brand new site – technically there has not even been a grand opening yet (which is coming soon by the way). So other than our normal subscribers, we never get too many outside views. And we are a pretty small niche – mostly women who crossfit/obstacle course race/lift heavy/ follow a paleo-type diet. If you are in that niche, we aspire to be the online authority for you even though we also realize that others will not always understand our goals, values, and intent. But who cares about those people– how would they ever find us?
Well let’s just say they did. Our analytics software shows us where our viewership comes from in terms of how it is referred. Typically, it pretty much all comes from social media, search engines, and maybe a link from another site similar to ours. But on the same day the fitism article was posted, we were suddenly getting hundreds of views from a site called community.thebump.com. What the heck is that? I instantly figured, Crap! We are getting spammed! For those who don’t know, I am the site builder – as in the technical guy. This is a small operation – 6 or so contributors, Steph, and me. So getting hit by a big spam operation would really suck. But it wasn’t spam. Apparently someone posted my Fitism piece on a pregnancy site. !??!? Steph said, “Yeah they are killing us–and not in a good way.” I kind of thought that was funny. She didn’t. She works really really hard on this site and you can see we don’t sell ads, so it is not much of a money maker. She does this because she is super passionate about the cause – being fit. I do it because it is hard not to follow someone like Steph. For the people who have met her, you understand. For the rest of you guys, she is not only super accomplished and knowledgeable about all areas in this field – she is a badass. Quick story: I once told her about how my friends and I got into an inebriated chin-up contest (I played rugby in college.) She asked how many I did – I thought about 20. She said, “Wow, that is impressive! I wonder how many I can do.” As God as my witness she went to a pull up bar and did 20. Strict form, no kipping. Holy sh*t — badass.
Alright back to my point. When she got upset about the prego ladies bashing the article, I thought, That sucks and that is not fair to her. It is a good thing they were attacking me. Hey! Wait a minute—they are attacking ME– what exactly are they saying? Most were just sarcastic comments but here are a few examples:
…he’s a tool. I bet he never walks by a mirror without looking
I like this example because one, it is stereotyping — classic discrimination. And two, fit people – PLEASE stop doing this you are give the haters ammunition.
…egomaniac with bad writing skills
Ok I will give you the ego part but bad writing skills? This is a fitness blog – not The New Yorker. And it should be noted that this lady also bragged about how fit she is and did not use proper punctuation or spelling. Looks like we are both egomaniacs with bad writing skills.
One lady seemed to not like my tofu line? I bet she is a vegetarian.
I know, I know, I shouldn’t resort to name calling too.
There were a few people who seemed to have some empathy. One even wrote in our comments section. Most just thought it was ridiculous — but in fairness so did I when I first heard the word fitism.
I thought about posting on their site to defend myself – you know that is what Kiefer would do and he is one of my gurus. But then I figured, You know – these women just proved my point.
Haters gonna hate- Kat Williams.
I feel ya.
So for the few of you who have battled through the so-called-friends, difficult co-workers, or a hormonally charged forum, maybe you can take some solace from the fact there will always be people who do not understand you. My answer to them – who cares? If you like being healthy, then surround yourself with like-minded people.
Good luck and keep being fit.
By the way, I am pretty sure this was the original Fitism article that was brought up in my class: the comments she got were so much nicer!
First featured image by Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson
Second featured image by Helga Weber
Natasha Cooper says
Stephanie I read your background story and the Fitism article and was really inspired by it. I want to share my story and thoughts. A few years ago before I got married I had a physical at the doctors. I had my cholesterol checked for the first time and to my shock it was HIGH. I couldn’t believe it because I am thin and young. I was 24 or 25 years old. The doctor told me that I needed to exercise and change the way I eat. He said you are at an ideal weight and don’t need to be on medication to control it now…just change your habits. Which I didn’t exercise at all and I did’t really think about what I ate. I felt really sad and I knew that I would have to work harder than most people would. People look at me and think why are you going to the gym, your skinny you have nothing to worry about, you have no fat on you. Like the fitism article HAters be Hating. They have no idea I have high cholesterol ugh. I haven’t been back to the doctors so I don’t know if it has stayed the same or gotten worse or better. I hate going to the doctors anyway. It will be a year in April that I have been at Gold’s and I feel alot better about myself on the inside. I know my obstacle is the FOOD part haha. We just don’t have the good genes for that. So keep doing what your doing because it is awesome!
Natasha Cooper says
Im doing it for my heart and my kids. I don’t want to have heart disease and have a heart attack at a young age. I have been slow at this progress of getting healthy.
Thanks so so much for sharing Natasha! And I think you bring up a REALLY good point. It’s not just always what’s on the outside but what’s on the inside that we’re fighting. We shouldn’t judge anyone–no matter what. I’ve often walked through the gym and thought to myself “I bet that girl doesn’t have to work half as hard as I do and look at her–she’s phenomenal.” But it’s SO TRUE that we have no idea what each person is fighting against. Thanks so much for pointing this out. I’m glad you are taking the steps to make your life as healthy as can be for you and your kids. Your kids need you for as long as possible!